The new Arizona Legislature opened with more than 1,500 proposed bills already going to committees. As usual, education is the subject of several, and the number one issue for Arizona’s new Governor, Katie Hobbs. It was also the subject of the January meeting of the SaddleBrooke Democratic Club (SBDC), Tuesday, January 10.

Linda Lyon highlighted the recent history of public education in our state, including deep funding cuts after the great recession. The per pupil funding has been getting better—but is still $1,412 short of what it was in 2007. Lyon went on to explain how legislative expansion of school vouchers since 2011, known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, continues to take more funding away from public schools left with the requirement to stay open, put teachers in classrooms, and provide bussing and meals. The projected costs of the new law expanding eligibility of these vouchers to all families, estimated by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to be $33 million for this school, jumped to $210M in the first two months after the new law took effect, and may end up more than double that by the end of this school year.

Lyon, a past President of the Arizona School Boards Association, and nationally known blogger for public education, also explained how infrastructure maintenance and improvement funding for public schools across the state is still over $4.5B short of constitutional requirements.

On the brighter side, as the President of the Oracle School District (OSD) Governing Board, Lyon thanked the voters in the district for their local support. The OSD is making huge improvements in both infrastructure and student achievement, due in large part, to the override and bond passed in 2019, which are bringing mid-1900’s facilities into the 21st century, and inspiring community involvement, global expectations in students, and teacher retention.

While the state only funds one half of kindergarten costs, and provides no monies for preschool, the local community has again stepped up. Tax credits, donations, and extraordinary support of the Oracle Schools Foundation have bolstered the district’s early childhood learning and helped raise students’ understanding of what is possible.

The SaddleBrooke Democratic Club meets the second Tuesday of each month, at 3:30 p.m., in the HOA-1 Activity Center.

Do you know Arizona's state bird or its state mammal? Take this quiz and see how you do. Video by Johanna Eubank, Arizona Daily Star

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